5 April 2020 – For the third consecutive year, former Chicago Bulls star and Croatian international Toni Kukoc has been shunned by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In December, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced candidates for the Class of 2020 with two Croatian players among the nominees – Kukoc (51) and Josip (Giuseppe) Gjergja (82).
On Saturday, the Class of 2020 was revealed with the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett among the headlines. WNBA champion Tamika Catchings will also be enshrined, as well as former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former collegiate coach Eddie Sutton, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, former women’s college basketball coach Barbara Stevens and former FIBA and IOC executive Patrick Baumann, CBS Sports reported.
Kukoc, who has already been inducted into the FIBA international basketball Hall of Fame, was one of the first established European stars to play in the NBA, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1996 and 3 NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
He won a number of accolades throughout his impressive career, including being a 3-time Croatian Sportsman of the Year, FIBA World Championship MVP, 4-time Mister Europa Player of the Year and a double Olympic silver medalist. Maybe next year will be his year.
Meanwhile, Gjergja misses out for the second time after being nominated. Born in Zadar, Gjergja wore the KK Zadar jersey for 18 consecutive seasons, thus becoming one of the club’s legends. He represented the Yugoslav national team and won two FIBA World Cup silver medals in 1963 and 1967, as well as playing in the Olympics twice in 1960 and 1964. He coached Croatia in 1994 and led them to the FIBA World Cup bronze medal at the World Championships.
There are four Croatians currently inducted in the Hall of Fame – Dino Rada (2018), Drazen Petrovic (2002), Kresimir Cosic (1996) and coach Mirko Novosel (2002).